Originally forming back in ’93, Blonde Redhead, the band’s full-length debut dropped back in 1995 and the group has been moving forward ever since. Now 30 years into its career, the New York trio has released its 10th album, Sit Down For Dinner (section1), and its first new music in almost a decade. What you won’t find here is, as fighters call it, that proverbial ring rust. No, there’s none of that. Kazu Makino’s voice is as airy and breathless as we all can remember and musically, the band’s approach is somewhat minimalistic while at the same time creating a wide array of sound. Songs careen and slide effortlessly along one another, enchanting. It’s “Sit Down For Dinner (Part 2)” though that’s a bit different. It sways a bit with the ghost of a Bossa nova swing but remains Blonde Redhead. It’s always easy to fall in love with the group and these songs make it easy. Welcome back.
KINGDOM KOME x DAWIT JUSTICE – KINGDOM OF JUSTICE
Seasoned emcee Kingdom Kome stays in his own lane, as does producer Dawit Justice. There’s a fork in the road though where these two weary travelers met and found themselves finding a happy median. The two have worked together in the past, Dawit handling production on a couple of Kingdom projects. Now, Dawit Justice takes the reins for Kingdom Kome on Kingdom Of Justice.
Boom Bap production underlays Kingdom’s heady rhymes through his deep, growling cadence. But that’s only part of the story here as both artists have concocted an album with a timbre covered in darkness, maneuvering through grimy streets and gloomy tenements. The mood is set from the beginning with the title track, with film samples filled with disillusion through the first minute of the track before it explodes into a monstrosity of a song! Dawit’s beat moves muscularly with RZA-like ease while Kingdom explodes on the track exclaiming that same disappointment. Things don’t slow down as “Heroina” accentuates the mood with braggadocio without self-gratuity but “Cold Blood” with make your skin crawl, like a horror film filled with urban death. We’re all here for it though.
There’s an obvious distaste for the failed established government we all live with, as we make our way through as best we all can…but I digress. Although, “Snake Charmers (featuring Timbo King, Ras Ceylon, and Tragedy Khadafi)” moves through that failed society with clear imagery of mistakes made. Kingdom Kome takes chances as well, much like on “Libertad O Muerte,” where he spits rhymes with bilingual ease. ‘Liberty or death’ is the quick translation and it speaks volumes in both delivery and lyrical wordplay solely in Spanish.
There’s a lot of anger and no matter how it’s masked, it’s still there. The cuteness of “Ain’t Falling For It (featuring Enoch Sol and Una Mercedes)” gets its point around with Kingdom’s young family members singing in unison “We ain’t falling for your shit / we see your lies / and we will rise.” This is a you-can-attempt-to-be-sneaky-but-we-see-through-your-bullshit message. Teaching the kids the right way.
Ok, with Kingdom Of Justice, both King and Dawit hit with heavy one-two punches and follow it up with killer blows. It’s an album that demands one’s full attention, from start to finish.
SLOW PULP – YARD
To offer up an example of a group steadily on the incline, beginning with real indie roots in today’s musical landscape, you don’t have to look much further than Chicago’s Slow Pulp. Within the first five years of its existence, the band self-released three of its four EPs before releasing its first full-length Moveys in 2020 on NY label Winspear. The band has slowly, but again, steadily captured the attention of scribes and music listeners. Now with a burgeoning following, the time is right for its next move, and that’s Yard (ANTI-) its sophomore LP.
Slow Pulp has been able to hone its musical skill on the road, both headlining and opening shows for others. It’s proven fruitful with Yard, an indie-esque pop explosion of sound with revved-up rock pieces and sweetly generated sonically anthemic tracks. The variety throughout Yard enables listeners to capture the band’s full essence, whether it’s the igniting spark of “Cramps,” with a clear sheen of guitars and its catchy rhythm underneath guitarist Emily Massey’s cooing vocals or the acoustically driven opener “Gone 2” where the band finds comfort within a singular melody and fully capitalize on it. But it’s the title track that offers a bit more diversity as guitarist Henry Stoehr delivers his piano movements to accompany Massey’s vocals. It’s a repetitive number without being repetitious.
While Slow Pulp may move from acoustic to electric from one song to the next, it’s still undeniably Slow Pulp. “Worm” crashes in and offers an illusion of uncoordinated writing but in actuality comes across as sloppy perfection. There’s method to the group’s madness here. They know what they’re doing with instruments as they allow guitars to bleed through and form identities of their own. “MUD” follows right after and everything makes sense, with slight dynamic shifts that we may see coming but work to theirs and our benefit.
As we edge closer to the end of the year, it seems a number of artists have been patiently waiting to surprise us all with a variety of great music. With Yard, it seems Slow Pulp is one group that finds themselves within that company of artistry. Yeah, this album is well worth noting that.
HEMLOCK ERNST & HEIGHT KEECH – THE FALL COLLECTION
Okay, there are releases that come with a surprise, but it’s no surprise to many that Hemlock Ernst is the Hip-Hop alter ego of Baltimore, Maryland’s own Sam Herring, the lead singer for synth-pop outfit Future Islands. While some have referenced his emcee- as a “little side project” in the past, The Fall Collection (Alpha Pup) should put those comments and labels to rest considering the past four years or so have seen exponential growth. That’s not to diminish Height Keech’s contribution here. A prolific beatmaker himself, he’s another artist who’s blurring musical lines between Rock, Hip-Hop, Soul, and whatever other genre we’d care to include here as well.
I’ve already let the cat out the bag discussing this collaboration between Hemlock & Height and it’s hard to restrain any of the joy once the album starts. It slaps and slaps HARD. The opening “Marble Hill,” begins oddly enough and doesn’t seem to flow easily but then eventually comes together as hard-hitting drums meet with electric guitars. But things just get better from this point on and they leave no room for doubt going forward. The guitar-driven “Muddy Chuckies” sets the tone and pace for Hemlock’s rhymes revolving around over-achievement. But that beat tho.’ Height drops that magic and whether it’s all computer-generated or analog, it delivers a sense of nostalgia wrapped in a contemporary sound.
It’s the rhythmic melody of “Flat Meridian” with a catchy-as-fuck bassline that literally breathes fire throughout the track. Hemlock’s impressionistic prose might prove difficult to decipher but it makes no difference because his flow is perfectly aligned with Height’s beat. This is just the way the album is set, as each track manipulates listeners with ease. The straightforward “Hard Truth,” breathes through heartache and unrequited love. The line between love and hate is sometimes thinner than we may realize. The only other featured artist, billy woods, joins Hemlock & Height on “Inherit My Speech,” and slows nothing down. Soaked in guitars, both emcees together only make one another better than we probably thought they could be, but we can’t ignore Height and his beat majesty here. Incorporating stop/start motion within the Boom-Bap, yeah, it’s masterful. I find myself gravitating towards “40z On the Front Porch” though, and while I’m reminded of th1rt3en, it’s the sonic bliss that adjoins it to its contemporary. Guitar drones on over loose percussion as Hemlock kills it. If there’s a song on repeat, this might be it.
The Fall Collection shouldn’t leave you confused or at a loss because as a whole, the 14 tracks compiled together are an astounding piece of work. Hemlock Ernst delivers a hefty load of prose while Height Keech rocks that shit from track to track. Keep your eyes open and don’t sleep on it because if you do, you’ll only have yourself to blame.